How To Take Care Of Yourself Before And After Exercise by Dakota Murphey
When it comes to exercise, we all have our preferences. Some of us love to run and cycle in the outdoors, others prefer Crossfit, spin classes and lifting weights in the gym. Some even love to play recreational or team sports, and who doesn’t love a bit of yoga every now and then?
The point is - whatever form of exercise you enjoy, what you do before and after your workout is just as important. Exercise can bring you many physical benefits, including preventing signs of ageing in the skin, and reducing psoriasis and acne, not to mention the improved mental health advantages.
However, some simple functional, nutritional and skincare habits will play a large part in maintaining energy levels, reducing muscle soreness and improving your complexion before and after your exercise routine. It doesn’t matter whether you work out individually or take part in group sessions at a local fitness or lifestyle venue, you cannot afford to ignore important aspects of your health.
Giving your skin and body some much-needed pre- and post-workout love with these simple habits will go a long way in making you see the best long-term results.
What to Do Before Your Workout
Get Plenty of Sleep
Being well-rested can significantly improve your energy levels, allowing you to go the extra mile in your workout. It also keeps your hunger hormones more levelled so you aren’t likely to overindulge with food and undo your hard work. It’s widely recommended to get at least seven hours of sleep a night to ensure maximum performance.
Hydrate and Fuel Your Body
Drinking plenty of water is vital for our physical well-being and skin complexion but it’s especially important when we are planning an intensive workout routine. As you sweat, you lose water, so you need to make sure that your body is properly hydrated. It will also ensure you have sufficient energy throughout your workout.
Before a high-energy cardiovascular or endurance exercise, it’s wise to ensure you grab a pre-workout snack if you can. Some of us struggle to force food down before intense exercise, but it can definitely provide much-needed fuel when we need it. It can be difficult to train on an empty stomach.
Wear the Right Clothes and Footwear
Mobility, flexibility and athleticism will improve over time, but large elements of how well we perform depend on the clothes and shoes we wear. For example, wearing a supportive, high-impact sports bra for running will be more comfortable than wearing the same one you use for yoga.
In addition, wearing supportive running shoes will ensure better long-term comfort, and, in turn, improved resistance and endurance, and fewer injuries.
Also, make sure you’re wearing the right tops and shorts or leggings to ensure that your flexibility or mobility won’t be too compromised. There’s nothing worse than preparing for your exercise only to discover that you’re not comfortable with what you’re wearing, and if it’s not right, you may be prone to injury.
Warm Up and Stretch Properly
Even if you’re doing a quick workout, the warm-up and pre-exercise stretching cannot be ignored. By warming up and stretching you will be minimising the risk of injury, and providing an easier route into your workout, rather than going from static or sedentary to high-intensity straight away.
Dynamic warm-ups can also allow you to increase your range of motion during compound lifts like squats or bench presses, which can allow you to incorporate more of the right muscles into your exercise, and make progressive overloading easier.
Wear Sunscreen if You’re Going Outside
During the warmer months, it’s important to ensure that any outdoor exercise we do is not going to cause undue harm to our skin. The heat and direct sunlight can cause skin damage and discoloration from its electromagnetic rays. Therefore, applying sun lotion is the bare minimum.
It’s wise to get a sweatproof and high SPF factor rating to ensure you are protecting your skin as much as possible. Apply the cream to your face, chest, neck and throat, as well as any other exposed body parts that are likely to be in direct sunlight.
What to Do After Your Workout
Give your body sufficient time to calm down after intense movement and bring it back to a resting position. After a workout, your heart is beating faster than usual and your body temperature will be higher, so it’s important to cool down to stop blood pooling in your lower extremities, which can make you feel lightheaded. Depending on your exercise routine and intensity, you’ll need a suitable cool-down process for what you do.
If you have done HIIT training or a long-distance run, then doing a light jog or walk is ideal to bring your heart rate down steadily. If you have lifted heavy weights, a good cool down will be to perform some static stretches and de-load lifts.
Use a Foam Roller
Foam rolling can help you minimise post-workout soreness and also increase your range of motion. It increases blood flow to the tissues that you use while exercising, which is excellent for speeding up recovery and good use of cooling down time.
Alternatively, time spent getting a post-workout massage can reduce soreness and increase recovery and long-term performance. This is a way to work out the lactic acid that builds up in your muscles and removes any tension or stiffness.
Take a Cool Shower
Taking a cool or cold shower can also ease muscular tension, prevent inflammation and encourage your body to heal. Cold water immersion or even ice baths can be tremendously helpful after a particularly intense and hot workout. If you are prone to overheating, cold showers help your body regulate its temperature, and subsequently, maximise the results you’re working towards.
Wash Your Face
Facial wipes can be used as a way to cleanse your sweaty and dirty face quickly after a workout. Try and do this as soon as possible after your workout, even if you don’t plan to shower at the gym straight afterwards. Alternatively, consider using gentle or mild creams as a way to cleanse your pores.
In the shower, consider using a daily face wash or scrubbing solution as a way to give your pores a deep clean. Once you have cooled down, consider using a lightweight moisturiser to help your skin retain water and not dehydrate, which daily washes can do if used excessively.
Post-workout nutrition is important, depending on your fitness goals. To repair and rebuild muscle, plenty of lean protein and healthy carbohydrates are key.
Alongside diets or fitness nutrition plans, consider also taking supplements that support muscle growth, or fuel your body without the need to excessively eat if you’re trying to be in a calorie deficit, for example.
You can get pre-workout supplements in the form of amino acids such as beta-alanine, creatine or even caffeine. Post-workout supplements usually include protein tablets or shakes, HMB (beta-hydroxy beta-methyl-butyrate) or BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids). You can also consider taking multivitamins to ensure your body is obtaining its recommended daily quantities, and other aids like zinc and magnesium tablets to aid bone health and help sleep.
Focus on maintaining a healthy you
To get the most out of your workouts, it’s important to take care of your body. It’s often said that exercise is the easiest part, and it’s what you do before and afterwards that maximises your physical and mental health, and reduces the risk of injury, burnout or fatigue.
Over time, you may occasionally deviate from your routines to take a much-needed break and rest your body, but you can ensure your body is truly restored and revitalised with some vital pre- and post-workout remedies.
In turn, you’ll be able to perform at maximum capacity and get closer to achieving your goals.